Attractive Plants with Purple Leaves: A Comprehensive Guide

Purple leaf plants are a fantastic addition to any garden or interior space, injecting vibrant color and visual appeal. These plants come in various forms, including eye-catching shrubs, trailing plants, perennials, succulents, and annuals, all boasting dark-colored foliage that creates a dramatic effect. The deep shades of purple, ranging from pale lilac to almost black, are a result of increased anthocyanin concentrations in the leaves. Not only do these plants stand out on their own, but they also create stunning contrast when paired with green-leafed plants.

If you’re seeking striking shrubs or ornamental plants with breathtaking purple leaves to enhance your landscape, or if you’re looking to grow tropical, purple-leafed houseplants to beautify your living space, this article is for you. Join us on a journey through the colorful world of plants with purple leaves.

Purple Shamrock: A Unique Display of Color

One of the most captivating purple leaf plants is the purple shamrock. This ornamental houseplant or garden plant features dark purple triangular leaves resembling a shamrock. Its uniqueness lies in how its leaves close when disturbed or at night. With deep burgundy-maroon deltoid leaves, the purple shamrock can grow up to 1.5 ft. tall. It’s also known as false shamrock or purple wood sorrel due to its resemblance to other plants.

Purple Velvet Plant: Luxurious Beauty

The purple velvet plant is a low-growing evergreen with purple and green velvety leaves. Its upper side is dark green, while the underside boasts vibrant purple hues. This shade-loving tropical plant is perfect for hanging baskets, with its trailing stems reaching up to 2 ft. in length. The furry purple leaves, measuring 8″ long, are ovate in shape, with coarsely toothed margins covered in reddish-purple hairs.

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Boat Lily: A Deep Green and Purple Delight

Boat lily, also known as tradescantia spathacea, is an evergreen perennial with sword-shaped dark green and purple leaves. Its unique rosette pattern and boat-shaped white flowers make it a visually appealing addition to any interior. To ensure its leaves maintain their vibrant green and purple colors, this spiky plant requires four to eight hours of filtered sunlight daily. Some boat lily plants even feature green and dark pink variegated leaves with broad pale purple margins.

Purple Heart Plant: A Cascading Beauty

The purple heart plant, also known as tradescantia pallida, is a trailing wandering Jew plant with violet-purple leaves. Growing as an annual in gardens, it thrives as a beautiful indoor plant as well. Its leathery, oblong leaves are reddish-purple to almost black. Unlike other tradescantia varieties, the ‘Purple Heart’ cultivar boasts pure purple leaves without any variegation.

Wandering Jew: Stripes of Purple and Green

The wandering Jew, also referred to as spiderwort plant, is a tropical houseplant recognized by its lance-shaped purple and green striped leaves. The leaves have a slightly fuzzy texture and are green and pale gray on the upper side, with a commanding purple hue on the underside. This striking plant thrives in hanging baskets, with trailing vines extending up to 2 ft. In USDA zones 8 through 12, it can also serve as ground cover for partial shade.

Red Leaf Cordyline: A Bold Presence

The red leaf cordyline, scientifically known as cordyline fruticosa ‘Rubra,’ is a captivating perennial with reddish-pink to burgundy-purple leaves. Its large, leathery foliage stands out among other dark-leaved ornamental bushes, growing up to 4 ft. tall. This eye-catching plant is perfect for landscaping or growing in pots indoors.

Canna Lily ‘Purpurea’: A Symphony of Colors

The canna lily ‘Purpurea’ is a stunning purple and red-leafed plant boasting large, broad leaves and vibrant orange flowers. Its oval, dark purple leaves are adorned with striking neon red veins. This tropical plant thrives in semi-tropical and tropical gardens found in USDA zones 8 to 11. Whether grown at the back of borders, mass-planted along walls, or as a specimen plant, this colorful marvel adds a touch of grandeur to any setting.

Dwarf Barberry Shrubs: Compact Beauty

Dwarf barberry shrubs are thorny bushes with small, oval reddish-purple leaves. These colorful, compact shrubs are not only ornamental but also serve as a natural security barrier or foundation plant. Varieties such as Golden Ring Barberry, Rose Glow Barberry, and Helmond Pillar Barberry offer different shades of purple foliage, each with its unique characteristics.

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Persian Shield: A Kaleidoscope of Colors

The Persian shield is an exotic tender perennial boasting shiny lilac, purple, green, and gray leaves. Its silvery foliage features a center shading from light to dark purple, highlighted by bold dark green veins and margins. This fast-growing plant is popular for containers, hanging baskets, and semi-tropical shade gardens.

Ornamental Cabbage: A Majestic Display

Ornamental flowering cabbages exhibit rosettes with light to deep shades of purple foliage, complete with curly margins. Their captivating colors are further enhanced by pale lilac or vibrant pink-purple centers. These stunning cabbages make a bold statement in any garden.

Coleus: The Master of Color

Coleus plants are well-known for their colorful ovate leaves with scalloped margins. With varieties boasting burgundy, reddish-pink, bright purple, and vibrant green hues, these tender plants are grown as annuals or houseplants. Some noteworthy coleus plants with green and purple leaves include Giant Exhibition Magma Palisandra, Black Lace coleus, Black Magic coleus, Kong Scarlet coleus, Burgundy Wedding Train Coleus, and Flame Thrower Chili Pepper Coleus.

Coral Bells: A Delightful Display

Coral bells, also referred to as heuchera, are foliage plants with deeply lobed plum-purple, pink-purple, maroon, and glossy burgundy leaves. Thriving in various light conditions and soil types, these compact plants are suitable for containers and mixed beds. Notable coral bell varieties with stunning purple leaves include Coral Bells ‘Forever Purple,’ Coral Bells ‘Grape Expectations,’ and Purple Palace Coral Bells.

Purple Leaf Cactus and Succulent Plants: A Unique Touch

Many succulents and cactus plants feature attractive fleshy green and purple leaves, adding an exciting color twist to indoor gardens. Noteworthy examples include Echeveria ‘Black Prince,’ Echeveria ‘Shaviana’ Pink Frills, Black tree aeonium ‘Atropurpureum,’ and Lithops Optica ‘Rubra.’

Stonecrop ‘Purple Emperor’: The Perfect Accent

Stonecrop plants with purple leaves provide a captivating accent in garden landscapes. These vigorous plants feature dark purple, fleshy leaves growing on reddish-purple stems. To complement the purple foliage, large, umbrella-shaped rosy-pink flowers bloom, making stonecrop ideal for borders, beds, fences, or walls.

Purple Leaf Weigela: A Shrubby Marvel

Purple leaf weigela is an outstanding deciduous shrub with narrowly ovate dark purple leaves. Its rosy-pink trumpet-shaped flowers beautifully complement the striking foliage. Growing up to 5 ft. tall, this shrub excels as a plant border, foundation, or specimen shrub.

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Royal Purple Smokebush: A Regal Presence

The royal purple smokebush features foliage and flowers in rich, deep purple and burgundy hues. Its dark foliage intensifies when exposed to sunlight, enhancing the overall visual appeal. This sizable shrubby plant is perfect for hedges, privacy screens, accents, or borders.

Inaba Shidare Japanese Maple: A Weeping Wonder

The weeping Inaba Shidare Japanese maple tree is an incredible specimen, with cascading stems covered in feathery, deep red, scarlet, and purple foliage. The leaves appear almost black, particularly when growing in intense summer sun. This miniature tree is perfect for front-of-house planting or container gardens.

Black Scallop Bugleweed: A Bedding Delight

Black scallop bugleweed is a low-growing ground cover plant with dark purple, shiny, scalloped leaves. Its glossy foliage adds a dramatic touch to garden landscapes, while spikes of lavender flowers bloom in spring. This perennial’s robust growth makes it suitable for flower beds, rock gardens, or as a dark accent between stepping stones.

Purple Philodendron Rojo Congo: A Houseplant Marvel

The purple-leafed philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is a stunning houseplant with large, broad, dark purple leaves and purple stems. Its elongated dark oval leaves turn rich green as they mature. With a height and width of approximately 2 ft., this easy-to-care-for plant is an excellent addition to any indoor space.

Chinese Fringe Flower ‘Ever Red’: A Multifunctional Marvel

The Chinese fringe flower ‘Ever Red’ is an evergreen shrub that grows up to 6 ft. tall. Its red-flowering beauty shines as a specimen plant in full sun. Additionally, this versatile shrub serves as a hedge, privacy screen, foundation planting, or container plant, thriving in USDA zones 7 to 9.

In conclusion, attractive plants with purple leaves offer a multitude of options for adding color and flair to any landscape or interior space. From shrubs to houseplants, succulents to cacti, there is a diverse range of purple leaf plants available to suit every preference. Whether you prefer the bold and striking or the subtle and elegant, these purple wonders are sure to captivate and enhance any environment.

For more information about attractive plants with purple leaves, visit the Ames Farm Center.